A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Sintra, Portugal

Of Europe’s many fairytale-like towns, Sintra is among the most charming.  Sintra is easy to visit as a day trip from Lisbon, making it a must-see on most Lisbon-goers’ bucket lists.  We’ll cover everything you need to know about wheelchair accessibility in Sintra so that you can see for yourself everything it has to offer.

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Getting to Sintra

There are two ways to get to Sintra- by driving or taking the train.  Let’s take a look at both.

Driving

If your budget allows, we recommend driving or hiring a driver to get you to Sintra. The drive takes around 30 – 40 minutes, which is comparable to the length of the train ride. 

However, the advantage of going by private vehicle is that it’ll make it infinitely easier to move between sites in Sintra. Points of interest in Sintra are spread out and many are on steep hills.  By driving, you’ll save yourself a lot of time.

Furthermore, hiring a driver will make your day at Sintra even more hassle-free.  The reason being is that parking tends to be limited, with accessible parking spots even more so.  By having a private driver, he or she can drop you off and pick you up at the entrance of the various sites.

Train

A gap on the train to Sintra, requiring a ramp.
A ramp is needed to get on the train to Sintra due to a large gap.

Trains to Sintra are frequent, running about every 15 – 30 minutes depending on the time and day of the week.  No reservation is needed in advance and there isn’t assigned seating.

We recommend taking the train from the Rossio Station, as this is located closest to the historical center.  It’s also the start point for the train, so it will give you extra time to get on and settled.

There’s another train station, Estação do Oriente, where trains also depart to Sintra.  This train station is further from the center but a good option if you’re staying in that direction.

There’s at least one wheelchair accessible car on each train to Sintra, labeled on the outside with a wheelchair logo. 

The downside to the train is that there’s a substantial gap and step between the train and platform.  Therefore, the accessible car has a ramp that an employee can set up for you.  Employees managing the ticket machines will notify the appropriate party to set up the ramp.

Once in Sintra, you can easily roll into town via sidewalks from the train station, which will take about ten minutes.  Alternatively, you can catch a bus, which we’ll discuss next.

A view of Sintra when rolling by wheelchair to town from the train station.
A view of Sintra when rolling to town from the train Station.

Wheelchair accessible public transportation in Sintra

If you take the train, you’ll need to use public transportation if you want to see more than the center of the town.  Scotturb is a company that runs buses to Sintra’s most popular sites.

All of Scotturb’s buses are equipped with pull-down ramps that you can access via a button on the bus.  Each bus can hold one wheelchair.

Scotturb is designed for tourists.  They offer a 24-hour pass for 15 Euro.  With this pass, you can use the bus an unlimited amount of time to go to the many places on their various routes.

Scotturb Tickets & Routes

You can purchase a Scotturb pass with vendors outside of the train station in Sintra. Alternatively, you can buy the 24-hour ticket directly with the bus driver at any bus stop.

One item to note with Scotturb is that unlike the Hop-On Hop-Off bus company, whose buses aren’t wheelchair accessible in Sintra, Scotturb doesn’t run a single circuit to hit all the tourist spots.  Instead, depending on the direction of the sites you want to visit, you’ll need to return to Scotturb’s main bus stops, which are located outside the train station.

The wheelchair accessible area on a Scotturb bus.
The wheelchair accessible area on a Scotturb bus.

Wheelchair accessible private transportation

As already mentioned, you’ll by far have the most comfortable and time-efficient visit in Sintra if you hire a private van and driver.

Adapted & Senior Tours Portugal is a great option for this. They specialize in wheelchair accessible transfers and tours in Sintra, along with other parts of Portugal.

You can request more information and/or book your accessible van for Sintra here.

Wheelchair accessible restrooms in Sintra

We found wheelchair accessible restrooms in the following areas of Sintra. All the restrooms listed below require an entrance fee to get in.

  • Pena Palace (immediately to your left when you pass through the main entrance gate)
  • Pena Palace (store/restaurant area)
  • Monserrate Palace (store/restaurant area)

Wheelchair accessibility in the town of Sintra

Colorful buildings in downtown Sintra.

Sintra is about as quaint as they get for towns. The main square in town, around the Sintra National Palace, is flat.

However, the flat part of Sintra is very small. From there, restaurants and shops lead up short, but steep, side streets. If you’re traveling with a manual chair, you may need assistance to go up them. The silver lining is that the streets are lined with smooth, Portuguese cobblestone.

Narrow streets make wheelchair accessibility in Sintra difficult, but not impossible.

While in town, make sure you roll along the sidewalk that connects Sintra with the train station. Even if you don’t take the train, this is a beautiful stroll that will take you around 20 – 30 minutes round trip.

Wheelchair accessible things to do in Sintra

Now that you know how to get to and around Sintra, let’s talk about the wheelchair-friendly things to do there.

Travel Tip: Many sites in Sintra offer discounts for people with an ID showing proof of a disability. However, since each site is run individually, discounts vary.

1. Pena Palace

An outside view of the colorful Pena Palace.

Pena Palace is by far the most iconic site in Sintra. It’s also one of the most wheelchair friendly.

The main entrance to Pena Palace starts out flat. However, between the entrance and the gate to the palace, it’s about a 10 minute, uphill journey along a stone path.

Therefore, the palace offers a shuttle bus that can hold one wheelchair plus a number of able-bodied passengers. This bus runs every 15 minutes and charges a small fee.

The wheelchair accessible road leading up to Pena Palace.

In addition to the accessible bus that runs between the entrance and palace, there’s also an elongated, open-air golf cart type electric vehicle that runs through the park.

This vehicle can hold one wheelchair plus a few able-bodied passengers. A ramp leads directly into the vehicle. This is a wonderful option for exploring the large, wooded park around the palace.

Entering the palace

Once you arrive at the palace, a relatively smooth stone pathway leads upward to the top. The ramp leading to the top of the palace is about 90 meters long with inclines as steep as 18% at times.

The wheelchair accessible entrance to the inside of Pena Palace.

The palace offers traction equipment free of charge which can be reserved in advance to make the uphill climb more comfortable for manual wheelchair users.

Once you arrive to the top of Pena Palace, the views of Sintra and the countryside are breathtaking. You’ll have a wide area to roam around on the outdoor patio.

A view of Pena Palace and the countryside.

Unfortunately, the inside part of Pena Palace is not accessible. If you’re traveling with able-bodied people who’d like to enter the palace, you can expect it to take them around 15 – 20 minutes to go through.

2. Quinta da Regaleira

If you’ve looked up pictures of Sintra, you’ve surely seen the captivating- and intimidating- winding stairs that lead down into a well. These wells are located at Quinta da Regaleira. As you can guess, the stairs themselves aren’t accessible. However, we’ll show you how you can visit the wells from above.

Poço Iniciático at Quinta da Regaleira which is the least wheelchair accessible of the two wells.
Poço Iniciático at Quinta da Regaleira.

Quinta da Regaleira has among the best discounts of all the sites within Sintra. The wheelchair user and one travel companion enter for free (with proof of a disability ID).

The paths leading through Quinta da Regaleira are a combination dirt and bumpy brick that borderlines cobblestone. The terrain is a combination of flat and small hills. If you’re using a manual wheelchair, you may need assistance at times with some of the steeper areas. The inside of the palace itself is not accessible.

A brick road leading through Quinta da Regaleira.

Stairs connect some of the outdoor sites, however, there’s usually a longer route via a dirt path to get to the same area. You’ll be given a free map upon your entrance to Quinta da Regaleira which will help guide you along the most accessible routes.

A winding staircase on a lookout tower of Quinta da Regaleira.

Visiting the wells

There are two wells at Quinta da Regaleira (called poço in Portuguese and on the map you’ll be given).

The Poço Iniciático is the most popular well. This has a wide, spiraling staircase and is the image most shown online.

Unfortunately, the Poço Iniciático isn’t very accessible, as a small entrance would be challenging for even the narrowest of chairs. It’s about a six foot, flat journey from the narrow entrance to the railing where you can look down the well.

The narrow entrance to Poço Iniciático.
The narrow entrance to Poço Iniciático.

Therefore, if you’re able to walk some you could leave your chair at the entrance. You could also consider having someone carry you inside so that you can have a peek down the well.

If the Poço Iniciático sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, head over to the Poço Imperfeito. As it’s Portuguese name implies, this well is “imperfect” since it’s less restored than the Poço Iniciático.

A view looking down into the Poço Imperfeito well.

The Poço Imperfeito offers a wider entry that will get you right up to the railing to look down the well.

The wider, wheelchair accessible entrance to Poço Imperfeito.
The entrance to Poço Imperfeito.

Bonus: Since it’s not as well (no pun intended!) known as Poço Iniciático, there are fewer crowds at Poço Imperfeito.

3. Monserrate Palace

The wheelchair accessible entrance to the Monserrate Palace.

The Monserrate Palace is another architectural gem in Sintra. Unlike the two locations we’ve already covered here, the first floor of Monserrate Palace is accessible via a ramp.

A cement path leads up to the palace and some of the surrounding gardens. It’s about a 360 meter stroll from the main gate to the entrance of the palace.

4. Moorish Castle

A view of the Moorish Castle wall and countryside.

At first glance, the Moorish Castle looks far from accessible. While this is true for most of the castle, there’s an area that’s designed for wheelchair users.

A steep, stone route leads up to the castle. If you’re a manual wheelchair user, we highly recommend reserving the Moorish Castle’s free traction equipment in advance.

The wheelchair accessible path leading up to the Moorish Castle.

Thanks to a verticle lifting platform, you’ll be able to visit the Moorish Castle Church, a portion of the wall, and an onsite cafe.

There are deep slits in the stone wall so you’ll have easy viewing from your chair. And gosh, those views alone are worth the visit! You’ll be able to see the town of Sintra and the surrounding countryside far below.

A view of Sintra from the Moorish Castle.
A view of Sintra from the Moorish Castle.

5. Sintra National Palace

The Sintra National Palace enjoys a great location in the center of Sintra town. A huge, beautiful plaza and balcony sit in front, offering some must-see views of the town and forest below. Even if you don’t enter the palace, make sure to pay this plaza a visit when you’re exploring the town.

A view of downtown Sintra from the Sintra National Palace.
A view of downtown Sintra from the Sintra National Palace.

The downside to the Sintra National Palace is that it takes a good amount of effort to visit. In our opinion, the sites we’ve already discussed are more worth taking the time to enter, especially if you’ll only be in Sintra for one day.

For starters, the ticket booth requires going up a number of stairs. After someone purchases a ticket for you, you’ll need to go up a driveway that’ll take you to the back of the building.

Road that serves as a wheelchair accessible ramp leading to the Sintra National Palace.

Once inside, three rooms of the palace are accessible. No doubt, they’re pretty. However, in our opinion visiting the inside of the Sintra National Palace is a good option for a rainy day.

Travel Tip: Don’t leave Sintra without trying queijadas, a regional pastry. You’ll find them at any bakery in town.

6. Seteais Palace

A view of the outside of the Seteais Palace.

The Seteais Palace is a palace-turned-luxury hotel. It’s pretty to look at and the grounds in front of the palace are beautiful. However, there’s really not much in the way to do here in terms of tourism.

There’s a public lookout point behind the hotel. The downside is that the walls come up so high that it isn’t possible to see anything unless someone lifts you out of your chair.

Long story short, we recommend leaving Seteais Palace out of your itinerary unless you’re wanting to check another palace off your list.

Wheelchair rentals in Sintra

In its effort to increase inclusivity, most attractions in Sintra offer free manual wheelchairs and/or free traction equipment.

While you can try to ask for these items on the spot, we highly recommend that you reserve a wheelchair and/or traction equipment rental in advance. Remember, each historical site listed in this post is independent from the others, so you’ll need to reserve separate equipment for each place you’ll be visiting.

A colorful side street in Sintra.

Wheelchair accessible hotels in Sintra

Thanks to so many palaces and museums, spending a night in Sintra is an excellent option.  This is also a good choice if you plan on booking public transportation with Scotturb, since your ticket will be valid for 24 hours from the time you purchased it.

Pestana Sintra Hotel offers wheelchair accessible accommodation just ten minutes from downtown Sintra. Bonus- if you or a loved one enjoys golf, this hotel sits on a golf course.

Accessible Sintra Resources

Parques de Sintra launched a movement to turn Sintra into a more wheelchair-friendly place. They’ve already done a number of accessible renovations with more underway.

The online resources that Parques de Sintra offers were invaluable to our trip preparation. You can take a look at their detailed guides on accessibility at various sites within Sintra here.

A store in Sintra covered in tiles.

Conclusion

It’s easy to fall in love with Sintra’s small-town charm.  With a bit of planning, you’ll get to enjoy exploring many parts of Sintra with a wheelchair. 

Do you have experience with accessible travel in Sintra?  Or, do you have questions about an accessible Sintra trip that you’re planning?  If so, leave us a comment and we’ll be happy to help.

P.S.- Will you be spending time in Lisbon? If so, check out our post on A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Lisbon, Portugal.